It’s the last week of the season and that means another State of the Liga for all of you to digest as you wait pensively for the kickoff on Sunday (at 1pmEST). I’ve been rather delinquent with my State of the Liga’s this year–this is my 4th one and first since Christmas Day–but fear not, for there is much to discuss. It is, after all, the end of times and we’ve got to gently wrap up this epic league season with some sort of awesomeness, right?
Remember back when I was making season predictions? I don’t either. Basically, I totally nailed everything. Don’t even bother clicking that link I stupidly included for you so that you could actually click it and then come back and talk smack to me about how stupid I am. Just trust me that I totally nailed where everyone would end up. It would be fairly hilariously awesome if Xerez ended up 17th and surviving at the expense of Tenerife simply because of how much crap I took for predicting just that, but I don’t see it as particularly likely even if Xerez wins at Osasuna.
Here are the current standings:
Real Madrid 95
Athletic Bilbao 51
Atletico Madrid 49
Sporting Gijon 40
Racing Santander 36
This weekend’s matchups are:
Of all of those matches, only Athletic Bilbao – Depor has no real bearing on the final outcome of the table. No matter who wins (or doesn’t win) that match, they both end up out of Europe, but also safe from relegation. All of the other matches have something to do with final places. That’s pretty exciting.
Despite their worse goal difference, Valladolid and Racing are both ahead of Málaga due to head-to-head tiebreakers going in their favor. Xerez, down at the bottom, owns the tiebreaker against Málaga, Valladolid, and Tenerife, but not against Racing. Regardless, before that comes into play, they must beat Osasuna this weekend; fortunately for Xerez, Osasuna has nothing to play for because they assured themselves of survival a couple of weeks ago. Even if they win, though, Xerez will need a lot of help to survive. Tenerife, Malaga, and Valladolid must all lose in order for Xerez to survive. A draw amongst any of those teams and Xerez goes down.* Their chances hang, in essence, on them beating Osasuna and Tenerife losing at Valencia, who also have nothing to play for because they’ve assured themselves of third place and cannot go up to 2nd.
Tenerife can survive by drawing against Valencia if 2 of Valladolid, Málaga, and Racing lose. Not an easy hill to climb, of course, despite my thoughts that both Valladolid and Málaga will lose to their top 2 rivals. A win doesn’t necessarily ensure survival for Tenerife, but it obviously makes it easier: some combo of Valladolid, Malaga, and Racing needs to draw or lose. Obviously their abysmal away record (1W-3D-14L, 14GF 44gA) is working hard against them, but if there was ever a week for a second away win, it’s this one. If they lose, they’re sunk, regardless of other outcomes.
Málaga need a draw if Racing, Valladolid, and Tenerife all lose, but would also survive if they win and Racing and Valladolid do not win. A win would automatically ensure safety for Racing and Valladolid while a draw would mean they require 2 of Málaga, Tenerife, and Racing/Valladolid to lose.
In the end, I expect Xerez, Tenerife, and Málaga to go down simply because they’re lose, but if Xerez can pull of a victory, they’ll stay up and Valladolid will go down instead. Again, the math is insane at this point, but with both Málaga and Valladolid slated to lose, that makes it a bit easier for everyone else to survive.
The “meaningless zone” stretches from Zaragoza at 40pts and in 15th place all the way up to Athletic Bilbao at 51pts and in 8th. Those 8 teams have nothing to play for, really, having ensured survival and having no hope of getting to the European places. Still, playing for pride is important and I don’t think many of them will lay down and die in front of their opponents. Zaragoza, who host Villarreal, will be expected to put up a fight, at least by Getafe, who themselves are playing Atletico Madrid, which Villarreal will expect to show up despite their hangover from the Europa League final and preparations for next Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final. So expect Getafe to win that one despite it being a “derbi” match in the Calderon.
Sporting Gijon plays Racing, as mentioned before, while Almeria hosts Sevilla. Mallorca will be hoping that Almeria show up something big, especially considering that Sevilla might also have their eyes on Wednesday’s CdR final. Osasuna plays on Sunday against Xerez and might or might not show up, but only those lower than them care at all about that, but I do think they’ll end up crushing Xerez’s survival attempt.
Espanyol, somehow in 11th with 44pts, travel to Mallorca. The pericos have an absolutely balls-out horrendous away record: 2W-5D-11L (9GA, 27GF). Mallorca will be hoping that their lack of motivation and their lack of away form will lead to a loss. Sevilla will be hoping that Espanyol lends them a hand by kicking Mallorca off the park.
Depor and Athletic Bilbao’s match is 100% meaningless. Yay.
As I mentioned, Villarreal, sitting in 7th place, tied on points with 6th-place Getafe but below them thanks to head-to-head and goal difference, need to beat Zaragoza while Getafe draw or lose to Atleti. Neither team can make the Champions League (or catch Mallorca in 5th, for that matter), so there’s only this European spot left for them. Interestingly, Atleti’s victory in the Europa League final and their potential victory in the CdR final could give both Villarreal and Getafe European spots, unless the Fair Play Table, which has Almeria above both of them, dictates that Almeria gets in instead. Maybe Málaga should get to go…
Getafe needs to win or for Villarreal to lose to ensure a Europa League spot while a draw couple with a Villarreal loss or draw would also get them in. Naturally they’ll be gunning for Atleti the whole 90 minutes to try and get the 3 points and continue to control their own destiny rather than have to hope that Villarreal squanders their opportunity.
Mallorca, then, in 5th, 1 solitary point behind Sevilla, needs to win. A draw for Mallorca and a loss for Sevilla sees Sevilla into the Champions League because of their superior head-to-head record (2-0, 1-3), so Mallorca must defeat Espanyol and have Sevilla draw or lose to Almeria. I actually think that could happen and I, for one, am rooting for it. I want Mallorca’s season, which has been phenomenal, to be rewarded with a Champions League spot. Sevilla, while they’re fun and they deserve it to a certain extent as well, hasn’t overcome as many financial hurdles and have had much better talent in the squad throughout the year. So let’s go Barralets!
Valencia has nothing to play for, but do host Tenerife, which should mean a win for Los Che, but if last week (2-0 loss at Villarreal) was any indication, they’re just content to phone it in and David Villa is content to wait for the transfer cash to roll in. Tenerife might just get that second win, but the talent on hand at Valencia is probably too much for them in the end, despite their showing at the Camp Nou where they bagged a goal and were drawing 1-1 at one point.
Then there’s the top two. There’s not much to say other than win or go home. Barça sits at 96 points, Real Madrid at 95. If you draw, you’re out because your opponent will win. Barça host Valladolid while RM visit Málaga, but don’t think they will be easy matches. All 4 clubs have something to fight for and fight for it they will. Valladolid has Javier Clemente, who knows Pep, but also commands a much less talented squad. Still, they’ve only lost once since Clemente, known as the master of the 0-0 draw, took over 7 matches ago. They’ve defeated Sevilla and Racing both 2-1 at home and Sporting Gijon 0-2 away, while losing 3-1 away to Atleti, and drawing at nil @Tenerife, @Málaga, and vs Getafe.
Madrid face off against Málaga, who have not won since March 21 and don’t look like winning now. They did, however, draw 6 of those 10 matches, which is good news if you’re a Barça fan. I still think that both Barça and Real Madrid will win and do so without too many problems, but you never know in this crazy game and it takes 90 minutes of hard work to come out with a title. Much more on that, of course, in the preview.
So how have my season opening predictions gone?
|Real Madrid||Real Madrid|
|Athletic Bilbao||Sporting Gijon|
I don’t think I’ve done all that badly, especially considering the flak I got for putting Xerez above Tenerife and just before the last matchday of the season, I could turn out to exactly right in Xerez and Tenerife’s final positions. Yeah, sure, I obviously really blew the Málaga and Atleti predictions, but whatever, so did most everyone else, especially with that latter one. I’ll do the final update to the Fantasy and Prediction challenges (as well as draw some people some awesome MS Paint art and write some epic poems) next week when the dust has settled.
In Segunda news, FC Cartagena is currently in 3rd (behind Real Sociedad and Levante) and are in line for a promotion spot. That’s interesting mainly because the club was founded in 1995 and was just promoted to the Segunda this season. Whoa. They still have their work cut out for them, though, with 4 matches to go. If they do make it, they probably won’t hold on to him, but they could have 36-year old Pascal Cygan as their centerback. That would be wacky.
*If all 4 of Racing, Valladolid, Málaga, and Tenerife lose, I’m not sure where Xerez ends up because, as I said, they own the tiebreakers against Valladolid, Málaga, and Tenerife, but not against Racing. Problem is, Valladolid owns the tiebreaker against Racing, so they couldn’t end up below them, but Racing can’t end up below Xerez. RFEF’s Regulations of the Game (pdf) state on page 174 that if more than 2 clubs are tied on points, you determine who goes ahead first by points between those particular teams (in this case 5 teams). That would put Xerez at the top with 12pts from the 8 matches and Racing in second with 11pts. So then Málaga, Tenerife, and Valladolid would all go down–I think in that order from top to bottom.
Obviously the math changes a bit as teams win or draw (thus reducing who is tied at 36pts), so mainly what Xerez has to do is win and hope everyone else loses. Racing drawing or defeating Sporting I think would be a disaster for Xerez, but I’m not entirely sure. Note: I could be completely wrong–please read the section in question and let me know if I’m way off base with my interpretation.